Going green at City Hall

The following is a reprint of an editorial appearing in the Monday, January 3, 2005 edition of the Plain Dealer about the Cleveland sustainability programs manager position.

The city of Cleveland is looking for someone to fill what Mayor Jane Campbell promises will be "a very cool job." It also promises to be a very busy job, and, if done right, a very significant one.

So, would you like to be Cleveland's first sustainability programs manager?

What's a sustainability programs manager, you ask? City and local environmental leaders have been brainstorming about such a job for nearly a year and have identified a list of responsibilities longer than a 10-year-old's letter to Santa.

For starters, they expect the winning candidate to lead a comprehensive review of city operations aimed at identifying how to make them more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. Changing how Cleveland maintains its scores of buildings and hundreds of vehicles alone should present ample opportunities for saving money and reducing pollution.

Among the other possible tasks for the sustainability czar: making city purchasing and recycling practices more environmentally sound, drafting a green building code, helping to coordinate efforts of the many sustainability groups that already exist in Cleveland and encouraging people and businesses throughout the region to consider the long-rang environmental and social impacts of what they do. Virtually anything from advocating for better bike lanes to recruiting green technology firms can fit under the new job's broad mandate.

The post will pay between $45,000 and $60,000, and be housing in the Public Utilities Department. Money to cover the first two years of the sustainability initiative will come from the Cleveland and George Gund foundations. After that, Campbell predicts, the sustainability office can essentially operate on the money it will be saving the city. Sound far-fetched? Consider this: The mayor projects that simply installing energy-efficient bulbs in the city's traffic signals could save $350,000 a year.

Several cities, notably Chicago and Portland, have committed to "going green." But the movement remains relatively young, and there is plenty of room for Cleveland to establish itself as a leader and innovator. Doing so will require a new civic mindset, but it will also make this a better place to live, play and do business. And that can be one of the magnets for the young talent that this region needs to ensure future prosperity.

Campbell hopes to have her sustainability manager in place by early this year. In the right hands, this could be a vitally important job. And also a very cool one.


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